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≡ THE 5-RING CIRCUS ≡
1. World Sailing says no Russian, Belarusian return until 2024
2. Russia’s Zhurova proposes worldwide “athlete passport”
3. Giant, new FIS Games asking for 2028 hosts
4. Michael Johnson on why T&F athletes pull out of meets
5. Worries over North Korea for weightlifting Grand Prix
World Sailing chimed in with its answer to the Russian and Belarusian return question, pushing their re-entry all the way to the end of the Paris 2024 qualifying cycle, to the “last chance” regatta at the Semaine Olympique Francaise in April next year. In Russia, State Duma deputy Svetlana Zhurova, the 2006 Winter women’s 500 m winner, said the International Olympic Committee should consider an “athlete passport” that would allow supra-national entry into any country for the purpose of competitions. The IOC might like the idea, but governments around the world will not. The International Ski & Snowboard Federation (FIS) is organizing an all-disciplines “FIS Games” in 2028, a year in which there is no Olympic Winter Games or FIS World Championships. Expressions of interest are due in August. Former world 200 m record-holder Michael Johnson explained why track & field athletes pull out of meets so often; to no one’s surprise, it’s about money. In weightlifting, the re-appearance of powerhouse North Korea in international competition for the first time since 2019 has coaches and athletes worried about doping, since no one is allowed to enter the country to test their lifters.
● Panorama: Cycling (Thomas still leads Giro d’Italia as the mountains await) = Diving (Bacon and Loschiavo finish U.S. Nationals with wins) = Shooting (2: Hancock and Smith win U.S. Skeet titles; ISSF Shotgun Grand Prix) = Wrestling (2: Lopez returning for fifth OG gold?; Winchester and Gray advance to Final X) ●
World Sailing says no Russian return until 2024
The latest federation to decide what to do about Russian and Belarusian re-entry into international competitions is World Sailing.
Although Russia and Belarus are minor players in this sport, the World Sailing Board announced Wednesday, in pertinent part:
● “The Board recognises that the Fundamental Principles of Olympism inform the IOC’s recommendation to allow the return of Russian and Belarusian competitors as individual neutral athletes.”
● “Given the timing of the return is a matter for the International Federations, the Board’s decision remains consistent: April 2024 is the targeted opportunity for sailors with a Russian or Belarusian passport to return to international competition as neutrals. With regards to Olympic qualification, the Semaine Olympique Française (SOF), is an event at this time and presents opportunities for sailors with a Russian or Belarusian passport to compete as individual neutrals in qualifying for Paris 2024.”
● “World Sailing remains wholly committed to supporting Ukraine’s sailing community through what continues to be an unimaginably difficult time.”
So, the possibilities to participate in sailing in Paris will be limited to the “Last Chance” regatta at the 18-27 April 2024 Semaine Olympique Francaise, with 39 places out of 312 available (12.5%) for the Games. Russia and Belarus are shut out of the 2023 World Championships, the primary qualification opportunity.
This could set a workable precedent for other federations, as several have “last chance” or “universality” qualifying programs for their final qualifiers for Paris 2024.
The All-Russian Sailing Federation was livid, of course, with President Sergey Dzhienbaev telling the Russian news agency TASS:
“As they write, we have time until April 2024, but it’s also crazy to come without competitive practice and qualify for the Olympic Games. There is also a question of neutral status, we still have a big flag on the sail, unlike other sports, there will be a big question here.
“Naturally, after this decision, Russian athletes will miss the World and European Championships this year, as well as other international competitions. We are not even allowed into amateur mass sports now.”
Russia’s Zhurova proposes worldwide “athlete passport”
The International Olympic Committee’s position on Russian and Belarusian athletes has emphasized that athletes are not responsible for the acts of their governments and are, somehow, international actors above politics.
Now, they have a new ally in Svetlana Zhurova, a deputy in the Russian State Duma after her speed skating career in which she won two World Championships golds and the 2006 Turin Winter Olympic women’s 500 m title.
Asked about a move by the International Fencing Federation (FIE) to remove the “European Championships” title from the upcoming European Games in Poland because Russian and Belarusian athletes will not be admitted to the country by the Polish government, she told TASS:
“This should not happen when athletes are not allowed to compete because of politicians.
“I think the IOC needs to think about creating athlete passports. Such a document will allow athletes from any country to participate in competitions. And it doesn’t matter what the current political situation will be, what the politicians will say.”
Observed: This will be fascinating to watch if attempted by the IOC. In essence, governments in every country – except the U.S., at least now – will be asked to fund athletes, for training and competitions, with coaching, facilities and living expenses, and have nothing to say about where they go and what they do. Free ride.
This will be welcomed in some outcast countries like Russia, Iran and North Korea (except they may not admit passport holders to their countries on other grounds), but hardly welcomed elsewhere. But it is certainly in line with the IOC’s view that athletes are a separate and privileged class, not subject to ordinary governance by their own local, regional and national authorities.
Giant, new FIS Games asking for 2028 hosts
Another multi-discipline mega-event is in the offing, with the International Ski & Snowboard Federation (FIS) now looking for potential hosts for its first-ever FIS Games, to take place in 2028.
The concept is similar to the Union Cycliste Internationale’s World Cycling Championships that will debut in Glasgow (SCO) and environs from 3-13 August this year, with events in all 13 UCI disciplines and 2,600 athletes vying to win in about 200 different events.
FIS is similarly enormous and the program for the 2028 FIS Games is designed to create a major new, 16-day program in the “off year” that no Olympic Winter Games or FIS World Championships take place. So, the new event will include 10 disciplines:
● Alpine Skiing
● Cross Country Skiing
● Freestyle Skiing
● Nordic Combined
● Para SnowSport
● Ski Jumping
● Speed Skiing
The project is clearly designed for multiple venues across a region, country or multiple countries. Letters of interest are due to FIS by 1 August, with official applications due in November, an inspection tour during the winter and then final bids by 31 March 2024. The inspection group will recommend a single candidate to the FIS Council, which will have the final say.
The event was originally expected to be held in 2024, but the pandemic scotched that. As a new event, FIS owns all of the rights to it and does not have to share the income with legacy partners (such as ski resorts). Can it create enough interest to become a money-maker and a prestige opportunity for potential future hosts in 2032 and 2036?
Michael Johnson on why T&F athletes pull out of meets
The Atlanta 1996, triple-gold-medalist sprint icon Michael Johnson, a longtime and well-respected commentator on track & field for the BBC, recently posted a note on Twitter on athletes and meets. It’s a must-read:
“Why do track athletes pull out of meets and seldom compete against rivals? I’ll explain. Pro track ([Diamond League], etc) never established itself separate of OLY & WCH. Tracks structure prioritizes [Olympic Games] & [World Championships].
“OLY & WCH = Big money, big recognition, career legacy, end of year ranking.
“Pro Meets = Small money, no recognition, risk to end of year ranking.
“Most athletes’ majority income comes from shoe contracts with 3 components. Base salary, bonuses, & reductions. Big bonuses for good OLY & WCH performance. Big reductions to the base for poor OLY & WCH performance or poor ranking. Rankings heavily weighted to #1: OLY & WCH performance. #2: Record against top competitors.
“The champion athletes making high 6 figures or more can only gain (Bonus or bigger contract) from continued OLY, WCH, and ranking success and actually can lose (Reductions) from pro meet risk. Effectively, for the sports biggest stars, pro meets equal:
Johnson also had an interesting response to a fan reply:
● “Some athletes just aren’t interested in chasing the money. If there were a true professional league, I’m not convinced they’d sign up to it because they would have to commit to a contract of a certain number of races, which would come into conflict with the greater goal of winning.”
● Reply: “If the professional league sucked, yes! And you’re probably assuming it will suck because pro track always has. It has to be reimagined and built for success. And nothing says you need to contract athletes to a bunch of races that’s too many.”
The latest nationally-televised meet in the U.S., the USATF Bermuda Grand Prix last Sunday in Devonshire, saw great – if wind-aided – marks, but a modest television audience.
Nielsen ratings data showed 636,000 watched the meet on NBC, worst of the four meets it has aired so far this year. The three indoor meets, all on Saturdays, drew 866,000 for the New Balance Grand Prix in Boston, 972,000 for the Millrose Games in New York and 954,000 for the USATF Indoor Nationals in Albuquerque.
NBC will have the USATF’s L.A. Grand Prix from UCLA’s Drake Stadium this Saturday and the NYC Grand Prix on 24 June.
Worries over North Korea for weightlifting Grand Prix
“The IWF is aware of comments made by members of the weightlifting community regarding the return to competition of athletes representing the People’s Republic of Korea (PRK). As an International Federation determined to eradicate doping and deliver a fair and clean sport, we fully understand the strength of feeling on this matter and recognise the legitimate concerns of those speaking out.”
That’s from the International Weightlifting Federation on Wednesday, in advance of the start of the its Grand Prix tournament in Havana (CUB) from 8-18 June, a qualification event for the Paris 2024 Games which has attracted a huge field of 422 lifters from 72 nations plus 13 “neutrals” from Belarus.
North Korea has been a weightlifting power, winning nine medals (2-4-3) in its last appearance in the IWF Worlds in 2019, second-most behind China. Since then, it has been absent due to Covid worries, and there is wide concern that its lifters have not been subject to adequate out-of-competition drug testing.
For weightlifting, which is not on the program for Los Angeles 2028 at this time, a rash of doping positives could be ruinous. For lifters competing in Havana, the prospect of competing against a country whose athletes have not been tested, is worrisome.
Said Indian head coach Vijay Sharma, “Ethically, this is wrong. This should not happen. People are protesting. Even we are against it. It is wrong.”
The IWF statement noted that it asked the International Testing Agency – its contracted doping control partner – what was allowed and was told that it had to accept the North Korean entries. However:
“In the immediate term, the IWF will use the opportunity of the IWF Grand Prix in Cuba to meet with PRK officials and inform them of the seriousness of the situation. At the same time, the IWF will ask for the co-operation of PRK authorities to facilitate the access of independent testing teams in their country.”
North Korea’s national anti-doping agency is considered non-compliant by the World Anti-Doping Agency and how any testing is going to be done outside of international competitions is a problem. The IWF did promise this:
“If the IWF considers that the level of co-operation of PRK authorities is preventing the correct assessment and testing of their athletes, the participation of a PRK team at the Games will naturally be re-evaluated by the IWF.”
≡ PANORAMA ≡
● Cycling ● Stage 17 of the 106th Giro d’Italia was a 197 km ride on a gentle descent and then a long, flat finish into Caorle, meaning it was time for the sprinters to charge. The expected rush to the line saw Italy go 1-2 with Alberto Dianese and Jonny Milan racing past Australian Michael Matthews in the final meters, all timed in 4:26:08.
The overall leader, Britain’s Geraint Thomas, maintained his lead against Joao Almeida (POR: +0:18) and Slovenia’s Primoz Roglic (+0:29). The next two stages are for the climbers and will decide the race, starting with a triple climb stage on Thursday that begins at 13 m altitude in Oderzo and finished at 1,514 m in Val di Zoldo!
● Diving ● The final day of the USA Diving National Championships in Morgantown, West Virginia, saw wins for Sarah Bacon and Brandon Loschiavo.
A two-time Worlds 1 m Springboard silver medalist, Bacon won her second event of the meet in the 3 m Springboard, scoring 636.95 points to ease past Hailey Hernandez (602.95) and Krysta Palmer (597.45).
Already the winner in the women’s 3 m Synchro event, Bacon qualified for the World Aquatics Championships in her second event.
Loschiavo won his second national title on the 10 m Platform at 950.90, beating Max Flory (914.55) and Joshua Hedberg (881.40). He also had a prior win in the men’s 10 m Synchro and will be going to the Worlds in two events.
● Shooting ● Three-time Olympic Skeet champ Vincent Hancock secured his place at the 2023 World Championships with a tight win in the USA Shooting National Shotgun Championships at Hillsdale, Michigan.
Hancock scored 246/250 to reach the finals and then won there to secure the championship with 249 total points, winning a shoot-off with runner-up Conner Prince (249). Hayden Stewart won another shoot-off, against Benjamin Keller for the bronze (247).
Austen Smith, still just 21 and a Tokyo Olympian, won the women’s title and scored 245 points overall. The 2017 World Champion Dania Jo Vizzi took the silver (243) and 2022 Worlds bronze medalist Sam Simonton won the bronze at 241.
USA Shooting named Hancock, Dustan Taylor and Christian Elliott to its 2023 Worlds team for men and Smith, Vizzi and Simonton for the women. The competition also served as the first leg of the U.S. Olympic Trials for 2024. The competitions continue this week with Trap.
At the ISSF Shotgun World Cup in Almaty (KAZ), the Skeet events have concluded, with wins for three different countries in the three events.
Home favorite Assem Orynbay of Kazakhstan won the women’s Skeet final, 2-1 over Ganemat Sekhon of India in a shoot-out after a 50-50 tie after 60 shots. It’s the second career World Cup win for Orynbay, 29, and the second this year!
Greece’s Efthimos Mitas, 38, won his second career World Cup gold and first since 2012 (!), also with a 2-1 win in a shoot-off against the 2007 World Champion, 42-year-old Georgios Achilleos (CYP), after a 56-56 tie.
The Mixed Team win went to Italy’s Tammaro Cassandro and Chiara Cainero, 41-40, over Kazakhstan in the final.
● Wrestling ● Cuba’s Mijain Lopez, now 40, announced a return to the mat to try for a fifth Olympic gold in Paris in the Greco-Roman 130 kg category. The winner in Beijing and London at 120 kg and Rio and Tokyo at 130 kg, wants to be the only wrestler to win five golds; Japan’s Kaori Icho has also won four: in 2004-08-12 in the women’s 63 kg class and in 2016 at 58 kg.
USA Wrestling’s Senior World Team Trials Challenge in Colorado Springs last weekend produced a worthy set of challengers to try and make the U.S. team for the 2023 World Championships at the Final X matches on 10 June in Newark, New Jersey.
Places in three men’s Freestyle classes, four women’s Freestyle classes and all 10 Greco-Roman classes were up for grabs.
In the men’s Freestyle, Nahshon Garrett defeated 2021 Worlds runner-up Daton Fix at 61 kg, 12-4, to earn his first Final X slot since 2018, and Mason Parris overcame two-time Worlds bronze medalist Nick Gwiazdowski, 6-2, in the 125 kg final to earn a rematch with Tokyo Olympic champ Gable Steveson at Final X.
In the women’s Freestyle events, 2019 World Champion Jacarra Winchester advanced to Final X at 55 kg and six-time World Champion Adeline Gray won at 76 kg to try and go for a seventh Worlds gold. Both won by technical falls: Winchester by 11-0 over Areana Villaescusa, while Gray handled Dymond Guilford, 12-1.
Adam Coon, the 2018 Worlds silver medalist, headlined the Greco-Roman winners, taking the 130 kg final against Donny Longendyke by 9-0 to advance to Final X. Aliaksandr Kikiniou, 43, who won a 2009 Worlds bronze for Belarus, is now an American citizen and won at 77 k with a 10-0 technical over Payton Jacobson.
Two-time Olympian Ildar Hafizov (2008 for Uzbekistan and 2020 for the U.S.) won at 60 kg, beating Randon Miranda, 8-4, and Tokyo Olympian Alejandro Sancho qualified in the 67 kg class with a walk-over in the final.
For our updated, 651-event International Sports Calendar (no. 2) for 2023 and beyond, by date and by sport, click here!